Lyme & Tick-BoRne Diseases Research Center

1. Mission Statement

The Lyme and Tick-borne Diseases Research Center was established as the first academic research center in the country to focus multidisciplinary research on chronic Lyme disease.  In recognition that a growing number of patients experience ongoing or relapsing symptoms after having been treated for Lyme disease and in recognition that diagnostic tests are plagued by both false positive and false negative results and rarely provide definitive information about the presence or absence of active infection, the mission of this center is to focus research on identifying better diagnostic assays, better treatments, and a better pathophysiologic understanding of the mechanisms of symptom persistence so as to enable the development of more effective treatments.  

2. Origins

The Lyme and Tick-borne Diseases Research Center at the Columbia University Medical Center was established on April 30, 2007 through a joint effort of Columbia University, Global Lyme Alliance, and the Lyme Disease Association.  Culminating many years of fund-raising efforts, the opening of this Center represents a major achievement by many generous donors who banded together to lead the fight against this rapidly spreading disease.  There two charitable organizations recognized that patients with chronic persistent symptoms were not included in most Lyme research studies even though these patients with later stage symptoms were often the most disabled by the illness. These organizations also recognized that progress in medical science only occurs through the support of well-designed research.  To that end, these organizations rallied their efforts to establish this Research Center at Columbia University.  The establishment of this Center is the first step toward ensuring that leading researchers at one of the foremost academic research centers in the world are given the resources to focus their research efforts on unraveling the mysteries of chronic Lyme disease.

3. Research Team

Brian A. Fallon, MD, MPH, Associate Professor at the Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons, is the director of the Lyme and Tick-borne Diseases Research Center at the Columbia University Medical Center.  A graduate of Harvard College, he obtained his M.D. degree from the Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons, as well as a master's degree in public health epidemiology from Columbia University. He did his research training and an NIH fellowship in biological psychiatry at Columbia Presbyterian Medical Center and the New York State Psychiatric Institute.  Dr. Fallon’s research has focused on the neurology, neuropsychiatry, and neuroimaging aspects of Lyme disease, with a particular focus on treatment, diagnostics, and biomarkers of disease among patients with chronic persistent symptoms.  Collaborating with researchers at Columbia, the NYS Psychiatric Institute, the NIH, and other major academic centers, Dr. Fallon’s research team has published widely and presented at both national and international meetings.

J. John Mann, MD is the Paul Janssen Professor of Translational Neuroscience (in Psychiatry and in Radiology) at Columbia University and Chief of the Department of Neuroscience at the New York State Psychiatric Institute. Dr. Mann is trained in Psychiatry and Internal Medicine and has also obtained a doctorate in Neurochemistry. His research employs functional brain imaging, neurochemistry and molecular genetics to probe the causes of neuropsychiatric disorders. He has published over 400 papers and edited 10 books. 

Harold A. Sackeim, PhD is Professor in the Departments of Psychiatry and Radiology at  Columbia University, the author of more than 350 publications, founding editor of a new journal “Brain Stimulation”, recipient of numerous national and international awards, and emeritus chief of the Department of Biological Psychiatry at the NYS Psychiatric Institute.  Dr. Sackeim’s expertise encompasses the neurobiology of emotion and cognition, with a particular emphasis on depression, functional brain imaging, and brain stimulation therapeutics for neuropsychiatric disorders.

Kathy M. Corbera, MD is Associate Director of the Lyme and Tick-Borne Diseases Evaluation Service at the Columbia University Medical Center. She served as coordinator of the Columbia University, NIH-funded study, “PET and MRI Imaging of Persistent Lyme Encephalopathy.”  Dr. Corbera has broad expertise in clinical infectious disease practice and research.   She was a Research Fellow in the Department of Neurology at the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, and has worked abroad in clinical infectious disease and AIDS in Mexico, France and Argentina.  In addition to her work at the Lyme Evaluation Service, Dr. Corbera is Associate Director of Education.  She coordinates the educational fellowships sponsored by the Lyme and Tick-Borne Diseases Research Center.

Andrew Dwork, PhD, Associate Professor of Clinical Pathology at Columbia University, directs the Tissue Bank for post-mortem studies of patients with a well-documented history of Lyme disease.  Dr. Dwork has published extensively on the neuropathology of neurocognitive and neuropsychiatric disorders in such journals as Neuron, Molecular Psychiatry, Neurology, and Neuroscience.   In the Journal of Neuropsychiatry, he was senior author on a case report regarding a patient with rapidly progressive frontal-lobe dementia associated with Lyme disease.

John G. Keilp, PhD is an Associate Research Scientist in the Division of Neuroscience at Columbia University. He has extensive experience in the assessment of cognitive impairment in psychiatric (depression) and neurologic (dementia, HIV and Lyme encephalopathy) disorders. He has also conducted numerous studies examining correlations between cognitive deficits and brain blood flow.

James R. Moeller, PhD is Assistant Professor in the Division of Geriatrics at Columbia University.  He has pioneered the development of novel analytic methods for functional brain imaging data.  He has published and lectured widely on this methods, working on a variety of brain disorders including Parkinsons Disease, Torsion dystonia, Alzheimer’s Disease, and Lyme Disease.

Carolyn B. Britton, MD, Clinical Professor of Neurology at Columbia University, is the chief neurologist for our Lyme research studies.  With specific expertise in neurovirology, Dr. Britton has a particular interest in the clinical care and research of patients with Lyme Disease, Multiple Sclerlosis, and HIV. In 2008, Dr. Britton was elected President of the National Medical Association.

Edward Dwyer, MD, Assistant Professor of Clinical Medicine and Director of the Clinical Trials Unit for the Division of Rheumatology at the Columbia Univresity Medical Center, has been the primary research rheumatologist for our Lyme studies and was co-author on the 1990 study reported in the New England Journal of Medicine which demonstrated an association between chronic Lyme arthritis and the HLA DR2 and DR4 markers.

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